GOTY 2016: Best Storytelling

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This year we've brought back our category awards to recognize achievements in specific areas of game development. There are ten awards in all, with two new ones being awarded every day this week. Keep checking back for more winners!

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Best Storytelling: Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Naughty Dog | May 10th, 2016 | PlayStation 4

Runners-up: Battlefield 1, VA-11 HALL-A

There’s a reason classic tropes, despite overuse, can still provide classic stories. 

If you listen to our podcast discussion for this year’s Game of the Year awards (coming next week  — Ed.), you’ll hear two things: First, that we as a group had a lot of trepidation going into Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. After all, it was the fourth game in a series which was known for its high quality, but had started to grow stale. And second is that, when they came to discuss the plot twists and intricacies to the ending of the game, I pulled my headset off and didn’t want to hear the details.

It’s true that the story and storytelling of Uncharted 4 hits many of the same points in similar manners to other triple-A titles, including past Uncharted games. Controlled by you, Nathan Drake explores and shoots his way through ancient ruins, aw-shucks-es his way through puzzles (ah, the classical upbringing of a Catholic orphanage) and manages a family drama along the way. And while that may sound rote, it’s the acting (including the motion capture) and writing that makes it charming, endearing, and our best example of storytelling for the year.

The absolute best part of Uncharted 4 is early on, when it’s revealed Drake is blissfully domesticated. And while I enjoyed the quick bit of not-quite-Nerf foam-dart shooting in the attic, seeing Nathan and his wife interact was one of the most honest and genuine scenes of games in a long period. The love permeates through the little things, like fetching dinner and trying to pay attention to the conversation, in much stronger ways than if the Drakes had made out right on screen. Love and a loving relationship is more than just the physicality.

I’m still not all the way through Uncharted 4, and that’s the reason I stepped away when discussion turned to the end-game details. But I cannot wait to see how it develops, and those that have seen the results felt confident enough to help give this game the nod. — Doug Bonham